Monday, October 26, 2015

The Harder Road

This is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Kenneth E. Rich, a saint who 
walked among us. 
 Ken's life was taken by a drunken driver earlier this month. 

I first met Ken in the 1990's, when he was, just briefly, a teacher at the 
school I was teaching in.  Over the decades,  he took pains to remain 
in touch with me and others whom he had  met at the school.  I would 
visit a colleague in a hospital, or attend a  funeral, and Ken would be 
there.  I would post a poem, in a particularly dejected or elated mood, 
and I would get an e-mailed note from him.  And at least once a year,
before we used e-mail much, I would get a call from him.  He knew that
I was going through much.

It turns out that this was what he did, not only for those whom he had

met at our school, but also for many others whose paths he had crossed. 
This included not only members of our species, but also those who could 
neither talk nor read nor write. So they needed more than an e-mail or
a telephone call.  

When I met him once, Ken apologized because he was in a hurry.  I found 
out he needed to drive upstate in time to feed some kittens he had found 
being tended to by a hard-pressed mother cat, near to where his parents 

Whatever he did for others, Ken preferred to do unobtrusively, even 

anonymously.  For the past several years, I have received, annually by
mail, a packet of goji-berries or some other such gift.  Who has been 
sending me these yearly gifts, I still do not know. But it could well be 
Ken, for that was how he was.  
Although Ken was an MD, he believed in minimizing the use of 
pharmaceuticals, preferring natural alternatives.

These verses were not written with Ken consciously in mind. But I 
realized, afterwards, that they could have been written for him.

More, perhaps, than anyone I have known, Ken walked the harder road 
of conscience.  He was gentle, kind, caring and humble to a fault, within 
himself and to all beings he encountered.  

May such as he be blessed, wherever they are, for they are blessings to 
all of us, whose lives they chance to touch.  

Blessed be those who bore him and reared him to be who he was.

Kenneth E. Rich -- a picture posted by one of his friends
on Ken's Facebook page after his passing
The Harder Road  

There is a thing that’s known as trust.  So children, elders need
The ones they trust to do what’s right.  And friends and kin, who’re trusted,
Should know that trust is like respect—for when, in speech or deed,
These things are violated, they are then forever busted.
Yet teachers bow to orders and so let their students down.
And elders often aren’t treated with respect that’s due.
To tell the truth is difficult.  It’s easier to lie.
And yet the truth is better far, for all—and me and you.
A lie can never substitute, whatever our intent,
For truth.  By sticking to the truth, we take the harder way.
A fact might cause discomfort, but that’s better than deceit.
Humility requires the truth.  Let gods, to falsehoods, stray.
The hubris that promotes the lie, so life becomes deception,
Was practiced by the kings and priests.  The masses then were tamed.
So to this day, “God save the king!” is shouted out with fervor,
And those who so salute the brigand breed are not ashamed.

As those who questioned lies were punished, often being killed,
We humans came to tolerate the lies our masters spoke.
And in our turn, we turned to lies. We cheated and we stole.
So humans were corrupted by the lie as by the yoke.

But those who seek in mathematics and those who search in science,
Yet falsify, are looked upon with wonder and contempt.
For these are ways of seeking truth, of sorting true from false.
And in this search, no falsehood small can ever be exempt.

But in the cities we can see that falsehoods run our lives,
For people often can be fooled, and for the longest while.
Expedience and truth are rarely partners. So we see
The profiteers and politicians lie and quietly smile.

By going on the liars’ way, we are ourselves corrupted.
And so we find there’s less of trust and more and more suspicion.
The ones who lie and cheat and steal are seen to be ascendant,
And those who trust are seen as fools and treated with derision.
So marriages can fall apart, and families be torn.
So soldiers might be sent to war, to battle and to die,
By those that they have trusted, who have treated them with scorn.
And nations whole might be consumed, proceeding from a lie.

We might then hope that we would learn, from all our past mistakes—
That we would not begin a war, or violate a trust.
And yet we see that, all around, our hopes for this are dashed.
So people suffer needlessly, from punishments unjust.

The worker who is diligent, the teacher working hard,
The parent doing what is right, the soldier in the battle—
These are not the ones who’re praised, or even left alone.
The Bloombergs and the Trumps can herd, and all the rest are cattle.

Kenneth E. Rich -- another picture posted by a friend
on Ken's Facebook page after his death

So will we ever taste the truth that’s hard to take for those
Who swallow down the easy lies in sugar coated pills?
Its bitter taste might put us off, but truth has this as value—
It’s needed, if we do desire to rid ourselves of ills.

We might believe in Hindutva, the glory of Islam,
The sought-for Christian paradise or the ancient promised land,
Or not believe in anything, as skeptics often do.
There still remain the facts.  The truth is left to understand.

In mathematics and in science, it’s easier to find
What’s true and what is not.  In politics and history,
We’re sold what we are taught.  But if we bear this sale in mind,
We know that what we buy is dear.  The price is liberty.

So how can we discern the truth, and sift the facts from fictions?
We cannot visit what is past, we only know the present.
And what goes on in places far, the real reasons for a war,
Are rarely known to the soldier or the worker or the peasant…

And even those with education, lighted with degrees,
Are often in the dark themselves and even more befuddled.
And yet they often think they know, and speak as if they do.
And so the lies can propagate, as myths and facts are muddled.

We might attempt to read in books.  But books are not the truth.
We might attend to prophets. Yet the prophets might be false.
And so, in searching, we’re misled, mistaking branch for root.
The nightingale is silent, while the cuckoo loudly calls.
So in the end it’s instinct, and the opening of mind
And also of the heart—that comes from listening, in quiet.
And when we take the time to do this, slowly, we will find,
The truth is taking form, beneath the falsehoods running riot.

For others may bestir the mind, with prejudice and hate.
And they might to seek to cow us or to lead us on a dance.
But we ourselves can clear the mind, until it’s like a lake
Through which the bottom is revealed, dispelling then the trance.

To do this thing is difficult, for those who’re stressed and caught
Within the mills they’re wanted in, to endlessly “produce”.
But when we get the chance to try, we then should quietly listen.
We might regain our tie to truth, which offers no excuse.

But seeing then this truth, we can’t be serfs again to Mammon,
Or be as Pollyannas who refuse to see the evil.
So then we each can take our turns to choose the road we travel,
And take the harder one to God, or the easier to the Devil.

Let’s listen to that conscience that might speak in softer tones.
Let’s beware of easy answers and of laziness of mind.
Let’s seek what others knew or know, and let us range afar,
And yet remember still to speak the truth—and to be kind.
2015 October 25th, Sun., 4:47 pm (final eleven stanzas, after the break)
(first eleven stanzas, before the break, added Oct. 26th, Mon.)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dine O Rate—দিনে ও রাতে—Day and Night

The verses in the beautiful, traditional Bengali script
are followed by two transcriptions into Roman letters.
After these, there is a translation into English.
দিনে ও রাতে
বসিয়া বসিয়া ভাবি, কি করিব হায়!
বুকের মাঝে আতঙ্ক, চারি দিকে ভয়৷
দেখিতে দেখিতে আসিল সন্ধ্যা প্রায়৷
আকাশে, ক্রমশ দিনের আলোর ক্ষয়৷

ঝিমিয়া ঝিমিযা, শুইয়া পড়ি খাটে৷
ঘুমের স্রোতে, ভাসিয়া চলিয়া যাই৷
জানি না, কি পড়িলাম, সপ্নর পাঠে,
তরঙ্গ পার হইয়া, কোন ঘাটে পাইলাম ঠাই৷

দাঁড়াইয়া উঠি যখন, রাতের নিশিতে,
শিহরিয়া শুনি তখন শৃগালের ডাক৷
রাতের শীতল হাওয়া বহিছে বাহিরে৷
জানালা দিয়া দেখি, তারার ঝাঁক৷

কুটির হইতে, রাতের রাস্তা দিয়া চলি৷
দিগন্তে ডুবিতেছে চাঁদ, রক্তমাখা৷
গাছের পাতার, পায়ের আওয়াজ শুনি৷
আসি শেষে নদীর তীরে, কুয়াশায় ঢাকা৷

দাঁড়াইয়া শুনি নদীর গুপ্ত বহন৷
মনে হয় যেন জিবনের গতি৷
ফিরে চলি বাড়ির দিকে যখন,
ভিজা পাতায় দেখি দুরের তারার জ্যোতি৷

শনিবার, ১০ই অক্টোবর, ২০১৫ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক

Dine O Rate  (transcription 1: follows pronunciation)
(For a summary of the transcription scheme used here, please see the the preface to the post at  Bharot Xadhin (India Free). )
Boxia boxia bhabi, ki koribo hae!
Buker majhe atonko, cari dike bho`e.
Dekhite dekhite, axilo xondha prae.
Akaxe, kromoxo diner alor kho`e.

Jhimia jhimia, xuia pori khat’e.
Ghumer srote, bhaxia colia jai.
Jani na ki por’ilam xo`pner pat’he,
to`ro`ngo par hoia, kon ghat`e pailam t’hai.

Dar’ia ut’hi jo`khon, rater nixite,
Xihoria to`khon xuni srigaler dak.
Rater xito`l haoa bohiche bahire.
Janala dia dekhi, tarar jha~k.

Kut’ir hoite, rater rasta dia coli.
Digo`nte d’ubiteche ca~d, ro`kto-makha.
Gacher patar, paer aoaj xuni.
Axi xexe nodir tire, ku~axae-d’haka.

Dar’aia xuni nodir gupto bo`hon.
Mone ho`e je`no jibo`ner goti.
Phire coli bar’ir dike jo`khon,
Bhija patae dekhi durer tarar joti.
Xonibar, 10-oi O`kt’obar, 2015 khri.
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk

Dinē ō Rātē  (transcription 2: follows traditional spelling)

This is the "machine transcription" for Bengali that is available 
(along with "machine translations" that are not yet palatable) at .  I have edited that lightly to remove 
the "a" letters that are silent in current spoken Bengali. These are 
implicit in the traditional script but are made explicit in the machine 
transcription.  I have also added periods (full stops).

Basiẏā basiẏā bhābi, ki kariba hāẏ!
Bukēr mājhē ātaṅka, cāri dikē bhaẏ.
Dēkhitē dēkhitē āsila sandhyā prāẏ.
Ākāśē, kramaśa dinēra ālōra kṣaẏ.

Jhimiẏā jhimiyā, śuiẏā paṛi khāṭē.
Ghumēr srōtē, bhāsiẏā caliẏā yā'i.
Jāni nā, ki paṛilām, sapnar pāṭhē,
taraṅga pār ha'iẏā, kōn ghāṭē pā'ilām ṭhā'i

Dām̐ṛā'iẏā uṭhi yakhan, rātēr niśitē,
śihariẏā śuni takhan śr̥gālēr ḍāk.
Rātēr śītal hā'ōẏā bahichē bāhirē.
Jānālā diẏā dēkhi, tārār jhām̐k.

Kuṭir ha'itē, rātēr rāstā diẏā cali
Digantē ḍubitēchē cām̐d, raktamākhā
Gāchēr pātār, pāẏēra ā'ōẏāja śuni.
Āsi śēṣē nadīr tīrē, kuẏāśāẏ ḍhākā.

Dām̐ṛā'iẏā śuni nadīr gupta bahan.
Manē haẏ yēna jibanēr gati.
Phirē cali bāṛir dikē yakhan,
bhijā pātāẏ dēkhi durēr tārār jyōti.

Śanibār, 10i Akṭōbar, 2015 khri
Bruklin, Ni'uẏark
Day and Night  (translation into English)

Dine O Rate (literally: in the day and in the night)

I sit and ponder. What to do?
There's fear within and all around.
The evening comes apace.
The sky is drained of light.

I doze and lie down on the bed.
I am carried away on the stream of sleep.
I do not know what I read in the book of dreams,
What shore I reach on crossing over the waves.

On rising up, in the dark of the night,
I shiver and hear the jackals' call.
The cold wind is blowing through the night.
I see, through the window, a swarm of stars.

I leave the house to walk the road of night.
I see the setting of the bloodstained moon.
I hear the sounds of footfalls and of leaves,
And come at last to the mist-draped river's shore.

I stand and hear the river's hidden flow.
It seems to be the rushing course of life.
On walking back towards my home, I see
The starlight on the dark and dew-clad leaves.

Saturday, 10th October, 2015 
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Beautiful—III

How Beautiful—III
How beautiful this world is,
in which we chance to live—
the blues and greens of sky and plants,
the warmer hues of earth,
the flowers dancing in the breeze,
the wondrous forms of beasts,
the sounds of water and of air—
the tinkle, rustle, swoosh,
the drumming of the raindrops,
the roars of waves and storms,
the scents of rose and jasmine,
of fruits and musks and earth,
the light that’s always changing—
the wonder of the dawn,
the clouds that soar and tumble,
the brilliance of noon,
the starry skies of midnight,
the phases of the moon…


I have heard the children laughing,
I have watched the puppies play.
I have seen the mother smiling
at the infant she had borne.

I have seen the sad, the evil,
the horrors of this world.
and yet, when I’m despairing,
I see its wonder still.
And so, when I’m departing,
despite the pain I’ve borne,
I’ll leave this place in gratitude,
and bless the ones that live.

To those who have departed
and those who're still unborn,
I'll send my silent greetings,
before I leave this world.

2014 September 24th, Thu.
(last 4 stanzas added Oct 3rd, Sat., along
with lines 4 to 7 from end of 1st stanza)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Two earlier poems with the same title:

 *   How Beautiful—II